How do you spell success? That’s really what a discussion of nonprofit business goals and objectives is all about. To for-profit companies, the answer is easy: M-O-N-E-Y. To nonprofit organizations, however, the answer is far less tangible. You measure success not in dollars, but in how well your organization serves those in need or how well it advances the causes it champions.
Goals and objectives provide a road map that helps keep your organization on track; they keep your efforts focused on providing the greatest possible value to the clients you serve; and they help convince contributors that you’re making a real difference in the world by stating in measurable terms the outcomes you deliver.
Think of it this way: Because your goals and objectives define the real bottom line of your nonprofit organization, they’re the keys to unlocking support from donors and foundations. Without gifts and grants, you can’t achieve your purpose. It’s that simple.
Make sure that your written plan includes your organization’s goals and objectives. Also, be sure to think about your goals from the standpoint of your clients and your contributors by considering these questions:
What goals are most meaningful to the people you serve or the cause you’re fighting for? How can you best meet those goals through a series of specific objectives?
What goals would best persuade your contributors that the work you do is important and makes a difference? What specific objectives would help convince them that you’re meeting those goals?
Even the highest ideals don’t substitute for clearly stated goals and measurable objectives. Funders need more than an assurance that you’re working to make the world a better place. They want to know for whom, in what way, and exactly how you’ll measure your impact.
Take the example of a nonprofit group, Jobs For All, that matches unemployed people with employers who have entry-level positions to fill. One way to gauge its effectiveness would be to count the number of clients served each year or, better yet, the number of clients who were actually placed in jobs.
If the organization’s mission involves preparing people to work by teaching them job skills and helping them deal with issues like childcare, an even better measure of success would be to track how many people were placed in jobs that they kept for a reasonable length of time.
Measuring the nonprofit’s results may lead the organization to set a goal to increase the number of clients successfully placed in long-term job situations. Another goal may be to increase funding in order to expand services.
Knowing their goals, the staff’s next step is to write objectives that detail the measures they’ll take in order to achieve each goal. For example, to increase the number of clients successfully served each year, objectives may include the following:
Enlisting ten new employers into the job-placement program over the next six months
Finding jobs for an additional 75 unemployed people in the coming year
Increasing the percentage of clients who actually remain employed for at least six months from 60 percent to 85 percent